Sunday Morning~ Unity, Maine
Common Ground Fair
September 24, 2017
In a continuation of life is good…I’m sitting in the health and healing tent watching the fairgrounds wake up. Other artisans and exhibitors are coming out of their tents sipping coffee or brushing their teeth, shadowy in the grey light. I love being here. From the moment I arrive on Thursday to set up, I have optimism about the world. This fair started forty years ago, an agricultural fair by the Maine Organic Farmers Association. It’s a 200 acre piece of land in Unity Maine and over the three days hosts about 70,000 people. It is so incredibly organized and efficient and I envision a whole world like this. Unrealistic, I know, but for three days I can pretend. It’s good for my soul.
Maine Midwives have a table here and I love being part of the family. Over the years participation has varied. Sometimes ten midwives are involved, speaking in the speakers tent and educating passers by. Sometime we raffle a quilt, and try to sell T-shirts, a perennial activity since we always order way more than we can sell. (The price has dropped this year if anyone is looking for a bargain.) In my defense, I argued against doing T-shirts again. I’ve sat behind a stack of them for too many yeas. But I digress… This year it is just two of us, my friend Kathy and me and we’re having a blast. Kathy packed a cooler full of good food and we take turns walking around, watching the demonstrations of woodcarving, pottery making, sheep herding, spinning, weaving, all things I love. There are lectures on organic grass care, permagardening, how to sharpen knives, homeopathy, thyroid disease, reflexology, and green funerals. Every hour there are at least thirty lectures to choose from in various areas. At five every afternoon there is a contra dance. I could spend hours in the chicken coop demonstration area alone. The creativity here is phenomenal.
We’ve made friends with our fellow exhibitors over the years and this morning we’re getting reflexology treatments. A few years ago they banned the sale of bottled water and installed water bottle refilling stations. Wildly successful. There are recycling stations and periodically throughout the day a guy on a bicycle empties the bins onto a trailer he transports by bike. I love it. I see people pushing each other in homemade wheelbarrows. There are huge test gardens with rows of picture perfect beets, onions the size of grapefruits, carrots that have obviously been photographed for seed catalogs. I thought those were all photo shopped. Apparently not.
It’s fun to have old friends and acquaintances walking through the tent and surprised to see us. We’re constantly jumping up for hugs and conversation. Others have come over to talk about their own Peace Corps experience or their birth, or their wish for a midwife in their area. Friday, Kathy gave a lecture about birth; yesterday, I spoke about what’s happening to women’s health services in rural America. Maine, being a victim of this phenomenon, there was a lot of interest. Another small community hospital in rural Maine stopped providing maternity services this month. Another community of women who will have to travel two or more hours to get care, then the same in labor. Its ridiculous. I compared what’s happening here to what happens to women in Malawi. Everyone is horrified when I tell Malawian stories, but don’t realize the same thing happens here, only in different disguise.
Being here makes me feel balanced and happy. Seventy thousand people! I have no idea how the organizers figure out how many rolls of toilet paper they need in the portable toilets, but the rolls are always full and the toilets clean. I fantasize about what people from other countries would think of us if they only saw this snapshot of Americana. Smiling, polite, friendly, involved, recycling, composting. We’d look pretty good.
Love to all,